Published Friday, February 15, 2013 AT 3:12 PM / Updated at 3:35 PM
Tom’s Friday Tailgate
Tom Shatel Omaha World-Herald

1. It’s fitting, in a way, that Michigan State is the opponent for Nebraska’s Legends Weekend, in this last year of the Devaney Center. Sure, it might be more fitting to have Norm Stewart or Billy Tubbs take one more bow. But Sparty was the opponent for one of the most important non-conference wins in Nebraska history: the Huskers’ 71-69 win over fifth-ranked MSU on Nov. 28, 1990. Yes, the Spartans were ranked fifth. Big deal. The Big Eight Conference back then brought the N0. 1-5 teams to the Devaney Center each year. But a lot of people thought Danny Nee had his best team entering that season. It would turn out to be the greatest team in NU history, with all due respect to the 1949 Big Seven co-champs. But nobody knew that in November, especially with NU coming off a loss to Murray State. The win over MSU and legend Jud Heathcote jump-started that magical run. It caught the nation’s eye. National hoops writers discovered Lincoln, Neb., and wrote stories about a tough Vietnam Vet and Al McGuire disciple taking on the hoops project at the football school. Nee elevated himself that year, too. It all started with that game. Welcome back, Sparticus.

2. Tyronn Lue is back in town this weekend to have his name lifted up to the rafters and there’s a lot of talk about whether Lue is the best Husker basketball player ever. Not to rain on the weekend, but I can’t go there. Dave Hoppen, the school’s all-time leading scorer and a four-year starter, is still tops with me. Lue is in the top five, to be sure. He had a better NBA career than Dave but not college. They both played in just one NCAA tournament game, for those keeping score.

3. The Huskers will wear throwback unis Saturday night, from the 1976-77 year, which will be great for the fans but a little worrisome for the players. As Brandon Ubel said, “I hope the shorts are down below the thigh.”

4. One more take on Creighton: Shake things up, Coach Mac. Not an overhaul. But if the Valley teams know Creighton so well and are changing up on their second time around, so can the Jays’ staff. I’d be intrigued by a lineup with both Gregory Echenique and Will Artino inside, and move Doug McDermott outside. If they still insist on doubling him outside, somebody — two somebodies — have to be open inside.

5. Do the Jays miss Antoine Young and Josh Jones? Sure. But they were on the team last year that went through a three-game losing streak, finished second in the Valley and was seeded eighth. I’m not sure this program is built to win a league championship. It’s been built around offense, perimeter offense, forever. That can make you a contender every year and it’s not a bad formula to win in March if you get hot. You get can streaky hot, as we’ve seen with CU in St. Louis over the years. Maybe this is just who they are.

6. One more take: Austin Chatman will take some grief, but remember this is his first year running the show and he’s going to have ups and downs. Young did, too, as did the other point guards in CU’s history (though I can’t recall too many bad days from Ryan Sears). The Valley is a cycle league, a development league, and most kids who come in aren’t ready to dominate full time. Chatman may have hit a wall. It happens. Meanwhile, Grant Gibbs, ol’ Old-School himself, is a guy you want on your team. But I’m not sure you want him running the show a lot, especially late in a game. Gibbs is not a playmaker. He’s more of a role player who can get a key rebound or steal, play some D and feed the big men with ridiculously good passes. But he’s not a go-to guy.

7. I’m going to try and follow Nebraska and Creighton baseball this weekend. It gets the juices for spring going. But I wish the season started on April 1. We have college hoops to follow until then, and a later start would give us that many more Husker and Jays games to watch in nice weather. As it is now, when the short sleeves and shorts come out, the games are almost over.

About Tom Shatel

Tom Shatel is a columnist for The Omaha World-Herald. You can get in touch with Tom on Twitter (@tomshatelOWH), or send him an email at